Kevin Myers: Terry sex saga is about gossip, not public interest
Published 03/02/2010 | 05:00
ALOT of components come together in the motorway pile-up story of John Terry, the England soccer captain, and his affair with another footballer's girlfriend and the wife's flight to -- where else? -- Dubai (cheated wives used to flee to fish and chips on a deckchair in Margate).
The wife's name, naturally, is Toni Terry. No doubt there's another footballer's wife called Terri Tony. So, in no particular order: I don't like Chelsea; I don't like John Terry; I don't like press intrusions into private sexual matters; I don't like those various intrusions being represented by the press as "public interest" and I loathe the Premiership and the absurd amount of money that men of moderate talent can earn in it.
But most of all, I despise the way I am irresistibly fascinated by all that is horrible and distasteful and cheap and unprincipled and cynical and foul.
However, let me concede: I have no basic right to know about John Terry's penile jollies. And newspapers which sought court injunctions against the gagging orders from John Terry's lawyers were certainly not acting in the "public interest" in doing so, as they claimed.
The word "interest" has developed parallel and unrelated meanings. Hence, "interest", being mildly fascinated by, and "interest", something that is of material value to you. The term "an interested party" straddles the two. It can mean someone who is fascinated by something, or it can mean someone who might profit from it, or both simultaneously.
The fundamental difference between the two meanings is encapsulated by the two negatives "disinterested" and "uninterested". The former means that you are neutral and do not stand to gain emotionally, intellectually or financially from something, whereas the latter means that you are the very opposite of fascinated.
I give you this brief -- why, yes, even turgid -- exposition upon the word "interest" because it goes to the heart of the whole debate on privacy. Many newspaper readers have an interest (curiosity about) other people's sex lives. Newspapers have an interest (financial motive) in telling their readers about those lives. But the two meanings are parallel and it is largely to benefit the financial well-being of the media (aka, "interest") that the two are conflated. Yes, I would love to know if Queen Elizabeth has a Rampant Rabbit or used to have torrid lesbian sex with a fellow schoolgirl at Balmoral but I have no RIGHT to know and nor has a newspaper the RIGHT to tell me. The public interest -- namely its well-being -- is not affected. The public interest -- its natural prurience -- is naturally gagging for more.
English courts have been taking an increasingly robust stance on "public-interest" matters. That is how John Terry's attempts to keep his extra-marital affairs out of the press were unsuccessful. But I actually think that his wife, Toni, and their toddler twins deserve better than this.
As for the "mistress" -- a word which over time begat Miss, Mrs and now Ms, and which I actually thought was extinct in that particular meaning -- Vanessa Perroncei, why, she has employed that noble defender of free speech, Max Clifford, to represent her interests and on Saturday morning was photo- graphed, poised outside her Surrey home, dressed up to the nines and making calls on her mobile phone. As you do. And what a worthless, anally-noisome, knob-eared retard she must be.
The argument runs that since John Terry is England captain, his private life is everyone's rightful business. Wrong. Firstly, it's not a right and secondly, it's gossip, not news -- and adultery is very common and very concealed. Amongst footballers, extra-marital capering is almost a norm. So for Terry's career as England captain to be thus jeopardised must be utterly incomprehensible to his two Italian managers, Ancelotti of Chelsea and Capello of England. For they handle these things in their homeland with the Italian equivalent of Max Clifford: silenzia prudente.
The problem is that even average Premiership footballers are turned into bulging wallets, with penises to match, by the amount of money they earn. Terry is paid £150,000 (€172,000) a week by Chelsea. Endorsements bring in much the same again. But Premiership footballers are not a law unto themselves. Unlike their Spanish, French or Italian counterparts, most young men from Ireland and Britain -- the loutish archipelago of Brireland -- if given the chance, would similarly behave with their B2G2: booze, birds, gonads and gelt.
As for the behaviour of their partners, that's merely Teri's business, and Toni's, and Semillon's, and Sauvignon's, and Chardonnay's. But then they'll probably call in Max Clifford to make sure we do hear about it anyway. It's known to lawyers as a profitable conflation of "interests".